Birge's Western Sharpshooters
66th Illinois Infantry,
14th Missouri Volunteers
1st Lt. Alvin Haskins Davis and 2nd Lt. William C. Jones of Co. K, 66th Illinois Infantry
Notice the triangular shaped object on the tip of the rifle in Davis's left hand, no doubt used for concealment. It is too bad we don't see more of the rifle. The picture of my grt. grandfather W. C. Jones was taken after the war when he could no longer button his shirt.
66th Illinois, Co. K roster
66th Illinois, Co. D Western Sharpshooters
66th Illiinois, Regimental History
66th Illinois, Co. C Re-enactment Unit
The SIXTY-SIXTH ILLINOIS INFANTRY was organized at Benton Barracks, near St. Louis, Mo., during the months of September and October 1861. It was originated under the special patronage of Major General John C. Fremont, and was designated as a Regiment of Western Sharp Shooters to be used as skirmishers.
Eight companies were collected, three from Illinois, three from Missouri, and two from other points, embracing the States of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio. The Regiment was mustered into the United States service, November 23, 1861, by Lieutenant Bundy, U.S.A., with John W. Birge as Colonel, and Benjamin S. Compton as Lieutenant Colonel, and was assigned as the Fourteenth Missouri Infantry Volunteers.
A ninth company was organized and added to the Regiment December 5, and on the 12th, the Regiment was ordered to the field, not being yet thoroughly organized or equipped. It was armed with the Demmick, American Deer and Target Rifle, but with meager accouterments.
The Regiment moved by rail to Centralia, Mo., and camped upon the prairies. From the 14th to the 28th of December, the Regiment was constantly engaged in fighting and skirmishing with rebel bushwackers of Sterling Price's Army.
On December 20, companies "H" and "I" had a brisk skirmish with Colonel Keene's Confederate scouts, in which Lieutenant T. D. Mitchell and the rebel Colonel were exchanging shots with their revolvers, the rebel being the better shot and seemingly getting the best of Mitchell, when Privates John V. Tompkins and Charles F. Kimmel came to the rescue and captured Colonel Keene.
On December 25, in a skirmish at Silver Creek, William D. Kyler, of Company H and John Kile, of Company I were killed. At daylight, December 26, captured Columbia.
December 28, engaged in the battle of Mount Zion. The enemy was repulsed, and next day the Regiment marched to Sturgeon, Mo., where it joined the command of General B. M. Prentiss, who highly complimented the Regiment for gallantry in the battle of Mount Zion.
During the month of January 1862, the Regiment was scouting and skirmishing at Renick, Macon and Centralia. It was a severe winter, the weather, very cold, and the snow a foot deep.
February 4, left Sturgeon via the North Missouri Railroad, arriving at St. Louis on the 5th, and embarked on the steamer Belle Memphis, and steamed down the Mississippi River, arriving at Cairo at 7 P.M. February 6, steamed up the Ohio River, arriving at Paducah, Ky., February 7, just in time to hear the news of the capture of Fort Henry at 9:35 A.M., February 8, 1862.
February 9, disembarked at 8 A.M., and marched into Fort Henry on the 12th of February, via the Dover road, with Colonel Jacob G. Lauman's Fourth Brigade consisting of the Second, Seventh, and Fourteenth Iowa, Twenty-fifth and Fifty-second Indiana. On the 13th, companies A, E, H and I were sent to the front and were soon engaged with rebel skirmishers, driving them back.
Three companies, A, E and H, directed their attention to a rebel battery on the Dover road which they soon silenced and kept it silenced during the three days battle of Fort Donelson.
The Regiment was upon the front line every day during the battle. Sunday, February 16, 1862, when the Fort was surrendered, the Regiment marched in. Sergeant R. F. Larimer, of Company E, captured the flag of the Eighteenth Tennessee, and Private C. F. Kimmel captured the rebel mail. General C. F. Smith and Colonel Lauman congratulated "Birge's Sharpshooters" for gallantry in the battle of Fort Donelson.
February 24 left camp, marching through Dover, and embarked on the steamer Champion No. 3 for Nashville, but the order was contermanded and the Regiment marched back to camp at 9 P.M. March 5 marched to Metal Landing on the Tennessee River. On the 14th, embarked on board the Lancaster, No. 4, and sailed up the river to Savannah, Tenn., the headquarters of General C. F. Smith. March 17, left Savannah, and sailed up the river to Pittsburg Landing.
Disembarked and marched one mile on the Corinth road to Camp Wallace and was assigned to the Second Brigade, Second Division, Army of the Tennessee. March 20, Major Charles W. Smith took command of the Regiment, vice B. S. Compton resigned.
NOTE: Lt William C. Jones was in Co. D until Co. K was formed, see below.
On the 6th and 7th of April, the Regiment was engaged in the terrible battle of Shiloh, April 18, 1862, General R. J. Oglesby took command of the Brigade. April 20, a new company, Captain George A. Taylor, form Lima, O., joined the Regiment as Company K. Up to this time the Regiment had been known as "Birge's Western Sharpshooters", but that name was now dropped and the Regiment was known as the Fourteenth Missouri Volunteers.
April 29, left camp at Owl Creek, Tenn., and started on the siege of Corinth, skirmishing daily with the enemy. May 21 was in the battle of Phillips Creek, and on May 30, entered Corinth. On June 1, proceeded to Booneville, Miss., via Farmington, Danville, Rienzi and Blackland; had a skirmish near Booneville. June 8, returned to Camp Montgomery, at Sulphur Springs.
June 12, General E. O. C. Ord in command at Corinth, and Company G detailed at General Ord's headquarters. June 23, Captain P. E. Burk, First U.S. Artillery, took command of the Regiment and it was assigned for duty at General Grant's headquarters in Corinth.
August 25, the Regiment relieved the Twelfth Illinois Infantry on provost duty in Corinth. August 28, a portion of the Regiment, with the Fourteenth Wisconsin, were sent on a scout to Bethel, Tenn., engaging in two skirmishes with the enemy.
Returned to Corinth August 30, and on September 18, marched to Glendale and Iuka, Miss., with General Ord's command. September 19, was engaged in heavy battle at Iuka. September 21, returned to Corinth, and on the 3d and 4th of October 1862, was engaged in the battle at Whitehouse and at Corinth, losing 19 men killed and wounded.
General R. J. Oglesby, commanding the Brigade, was among the seriously wounded. October 5, followed the rebels to with them on the 9th. On the 10th, returned to Rienzi, Colonel Mersey commanding the Brigade, which consisted of the Ninth and Twelfth Illinois, Eighty-first Ohio and Thirteenth and Fourteenth Missouri Infantry.
November 2, went out on another scout to the Hatchie River. On November 20, 1862, by order of the Secretary of War, E.M. Stanton, and Richard Yates, Governor of Illinois, the Regiment was changed from the Fourteenth Missouri Infantry to the Sixty-sixth Illinois Infantry, by which designation it was thereafter known.
November 26, the Regiment left Rienzi, marching through Danville, and camped on the Tuscumbia Hills, where it established a stockade camp, enclosing 15 acres of ground, as an outpost to the garrison of Corinth, which was named "Camp Davies".
While here the Sixty-sixth was engaged at the following places with rebel scouts and guerrillas;
Tuscumbia Bridge December 19;
Hatchie Bridge 30th;
Rienzi January 7, 1863;
Danville and Tuscombia Bridge
Rienzi January 24 and 25;
Danville February 8;
Ripley Cross Roads March 25;
Booneville April 1;
Glendale April 14;
Jumpertown May 12;
Kossuth May 24;
Cartersville June 6;
Yellow Creek June 8;
Seward House and Jumpertown July 19;
Jacinto August 9;
Rienzi August 11;
Seward House August 19;
Whiteside's Farm September 9.
November 1, 1863, the Sixty-sixth was relieved at Camp Davies by the Seventh "Kansas
Jayhawkers", and on the 2d it left camp, passing Pine Ridge, Glendale and Burnsville. On the
5th of November crossed the Tennessee River at Eastport and marched to Bluffton, Ala., General
T. W. Sweeney commanding the Division, and the Sixty-sixth Illinois, in the advance.
Skirmishing occurred at Bluff Creek, Waterloo, Lauderdale and Lexington, in Alabama. Arrived
at Pulaski, Giles county, Tenn., November 12, 1863.
December 16, members of the Sixty-sixth began to re-enlist in the Veteran service, and by December 23, 470 men had re-enlisted, and they were mustered in as veterans by Captain T. D. Mitchell, mustering officer of the Second Brigade. The greater portion of the men supplied themselves with Henry Rifles at their own expense, which cost $43 each.
January 16, 1864, left Pulaski and marched via Petersburg and Lynnville to Columbia, Tenn. January 17, a very cold day, forded Duck River and marched to Dark Station and embarked on the cars for Nashville, where they arrived at 10 o'clock P.M. Took cars again for Louisville, arriving on the 18th, and marched to Park Barracks.
January 22, the men received four months pay and $100 veteran bounty. On the 23d, left Louisville and took cars for Chicago, where they arrived January 28, and marched to North Market Hall. Here the Regiment received its thirty days veteran furlough.
On March 3, 1864, the Regiment re-assembled at Joliet, Ill., and on the 5th, left that city bound once more for Pulaski, Tenn., where it arrived on the 8th. From this time to April 29, the Regiment was engaged in scouting and foraging, with occasional skirmishes with the enemy.
On the 29th, the Sixty-sixth left Pulaski, with the Second Division, Sixteenth Army Corps, for Chattanooga via Elkton, where they forded the Elk River, marching on through Florence, Huntsville and Larkinsville, Ala.
At a latter point took cars for Bridgeport, Ala., and from thence to Chattanooga, which place was reached May 4. On the 6th moved forward with the Grand Army on the Atlanta campaign.
The Sixty-sixth had the honor of opening the campaign by driving Wheeler's cavalry and a Brigade of rebel Infantry through Snake Creek Gap, and holding until night the high hills of Resaca.
On this campaign the Sixty-sixth was under fire 120 days, being engaged in all the noted battles from Chattanooga to Atlanta. On this campaign the Sixty-sixth lost 225 men in killed and wounded. August 26, 1864, the non-veterans, whose term of enlistment had expired, were mustered out.
Wrecking railroads in Atlanta before march to sea.
July 22, the Sixty-sixth was hotly engaged, its colors showing 65 bullet holes through it. The Regiment lost many of its best officers in this campaign, but it never wavered or lost heart. After the fall of Atlanta, September 26, left East Point, Ga., for Rome. October 12, was engaged again with Wheeler's cavlary.
On the 13th, marched to Coosaville, Ala., to intercept General J. B. Hood's Rebel Army, and was engaged in several skirmishes with the enemy until the 24th, when the Regiment returned to Rome.
November 10, destroyed Forts Johnson and Stonewall Jackson and burned Rome, and on the 11th, started on the March to the Sea. On the great march the Sixty-sixth had its full share of battles and skirmishes with the enemy.
On November 27 and 28, was engaged with Jackson's rebel cavalry, and on the 29th, drove Cobb's Legions through Wrightsboro, Ga. December 5, destroyed a railroad bridge over the Ogeechee River on the Macon and Savannah Railroad, and again had a fight with Cobb's Legions.
On the 9th, the rebels opened on the Sixty-sixth with a two-gun battery. The Regiment charged upon the battery, capturing a fine Blakely gun and seven prisoners. At Eden Cross Roads, unaided and alone, the Sixty-sixth defeated 980 Georgia Militia, who fought behind breastworks.
On December 21, marched into Savannah, and General Sherman conferred the honor on the Sixty-sixth of assigning it to Ogethorpe Barracks. January 28, 1865, left Savannah on Sherman's picnic through South Carolina.
February 5, camped at Bald Ridge, where everything combustible was on fire. On the 7th, joined the command of General John A. Logan at Hickory Hill, where we received the first mail since leaving Savannah. Was at Bentonville, N.C., March 20, at Goldsboro March 23, and assisted in the capture of Raleigh April 13.
On May 24, 1865, participated in the Grand Review at Washington, D.C. Left Washington June 3, for Louisville, Ky., arriving on the 8th. July 7, 1865, the Regiment was mustered out of the service by Captain W. B. Guthrie, at Camp Logan, Ky. It then proceeded by cars to Camp Butler, where it was paid off July 15, and discharged, and the men bade each other adieu never to meet again as the Sixty-sixth Regiment of Illinois Infantry.
The following is a list of the most important battles in which the Regiment was engaged:
Siege of Corinth,
Advance on Booneville,
Snake Creek Gap,
Resaca, Lays Ferry,
New Hope Church,
Siege of Atlanta,
Sherman's March to Sea,
Eden Cross Roads,
Sharpshooters using Sharps model 1858 rifle.
The following was sent to me by Sgt Brent Reidenbach whose ancestor, John Wesley Swick, served with mine in the 66th..
John Wesley Swick
66th Illinois Co K
Thank you for your reply. I read a piece that was written by Major General Lew Wallace and he describes how the 66th performed their duties during the Fort Donelson campaign:
"A little before dawn Birge's sharp-shooters were astir. Theirs was a peculiar service. Each was a preferred marksman, and carried a long-range Henry rifle, with sights delicately arranged as for target practice. In action each was perfectly independent. They never manoeuvred as a corps. When the time came they were asked, "Canteens full?" "Biscuits for all day?" Then their only order, "All right; hunt your holes, boys." Thereupon they dispersed, and, like Indians, sought cover to please themselves behind rocks and stumps, or in hollows. Sometimes they dug holes; sometimes they climbed into trees. Once in a good location, they remained there the day. At night they would crawl out and report in camp. This morning, as I have said, the sharp-shooters dispersed early to find places within easy range of the breastworks."
I also found some more information as to some of the accoutrements they carried:
"The "Squirrel Tail" nomenclature came from the unusual headgear of the Sharpshooters which had attached three squirrel tails, knotted at the top. The was not the only unusual gear they carried. They were armed with the American Deer and Target rifle. This was a "long" rifle and to join the regiment, men had to prove that they were able to hit a target at 200 yards with no three shots measuring more than 10 inches apart.
The sharpshooters also carried a bullet pouch covered with bear skin and a powder horn or flask. In the bullet pouch they also carried bullet molds and patch cutters as they molded, greased and patched their own bullets."
I also found out that some of them used Henry Repeating rifles in addition to the Sharps carbines you mentioned and that they had to purchase them themselves. I'll continue looking for more information on the uniforms and accoutrements. When I find something out I'll be sure to share it with you. Also, if you have any other information on Company K, 66th Illinois would you mind sharing it with me. There is a push back home in Ohio to create another re-enacting unit and those involved are seriously considering becoming Company K, 66th Illinois - 3rd Ohio Company Volunteer Sharpshooters. Thanks in advance.
Yes, I am still in the service ... just passed my 9 years mark. I was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany for five years before returning to the States last year.
SGT Brent Reidenbach|
My gr granduncle Alvin Haskins Davis was a 1st Lt. in the 66th Illinois Reg., Co. K. Civil War: Alvin H Davis, 1st Lieutenant Co K, 66th Reg. Illinois Volunteer Inf. Originally formed as the Volunteer Western Sharp Shooters commanded by Capt. Geo. A. Taylor of men from the Ohio counties of Hardin and Allen from March 2 to Apr 4, 1862. When Capt. Taylor was killed in on May 16, 1864 Lieut. Davis assumed command and remained in that capacity until the company mustered out on Apr. 26, 1865 at Springfield, Illinois. Attached is a photo of him in uniform. Feel free to use the photo with credit, thank you.
His brother, my gr grandfather William Washington Davis served as a Private in the 135th OVI. He was mustered into this regiment on May 2, 1864 at Camp Chase (in Columbus, Ohio)This regiment was formed from 2 battalions of Ohio National Guard troops one from Licking County and the other, which included Company I, from Hardin County. The regiment was called up for 100 days service to relieve regular troops from Railroad and rear area security duty. This supposedly safe duty turned out to be the opposite as the regiment found itself squarely in the path of Confederate General Jubal Early's famous 1864 raid on Washington. Part of the unit was defeated and captured by overwhelming rebel forces at North Mountain. The rest of the unit fell back to the defenses of Harpers Ferry where they were engaged in some pretty nasty skirmishes. Davis survived and was mustered out on 1 Sept 64 although I suspect he remained a member of the Ohio Guard until the end of the war. At age 33 he was considered to be a "greybeard" in the vernacular of the time.
Cheers, Gary Snyder
(See photo of Lt Davis at the top of the page.)
I am Virgil Robinson, President of the Tri-State Coin & Relic Hunters Club in Iuka, MS. I ran across your web site today. I enjoyed it immensely. A couple of years ago, one of our members found this name badge of B. J. Williams, Co. K WSS (see attached jpg). It must have belonged to Burton J. Williams of Plymouth Ohio. (From the Co. K Roster on your web site).
I live at Booneville, MS. quite a few Demmick bullets have been found in this area. Some sources say that somewhere in Northern Alabama (where the name badge was found) the WSS's discarded their Demmick rifles and replaced them with Henry Rifles at their own expense. The Demmick rifles have never been found af far as we know. The area where our member found the name badge, he found demmick bullets, parts of demmicks bullet molds and Henry brass.
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Last Updated on June 2, 2006 by Dale C. Jones